Degree Date



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Reading scores from the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) from 3rd to 6th grade were studied in 1,410 public school students in a middle/Upper class suburban school district. Correlations indicated very strong consistency over time in rank ordering of students. Decision statistics revealed that the 3rd grade PSSA was good at identifying students who would be successful on the test in later years. However, about half the students who failed the PSSA in 6th grade had passed in 3rd grade and about a quarter of the students who failed in 3rd grade went on to success by 6th grade. Although the latter could be “intervention successes,” the former cast doubt on the PSSA’s ability to accurately predict who will fail later at the individual level. When students were grouped by their third grade performance level, large group differences persisted across years. Hierarchical Linear Modeling revealed that students who scored higher in third grade tended to have more rapid growth in reading across grades than those who scored lower in third grade. Students with an IEP and those who failed the third grade math PSSA showed significantly lower starting points and less growth across time in reading. The five elementary schools in the sample also demonstrated differences in initial performance level and change over time. Latent Class Analysis identified 4 trajectory groups. Students with an IEP and those who failed PSSA math and reading in third grade fell into the bottom trajectory classes, showing little change or even a decline in scores over time. The four trajectories formed a fan-spread pattern, which again suggested that students’ reading achievement over time was strongly associated with early scores. Therefore, results indicated consistent patterns across time when students were grouped by initial performance level and strong correlation across years. Students who performed lower in third grade maintained their position at the bottom of the sample, even declining in performance over time relative to the grade standards for Pennsylvania each year.


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